Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Democratic transparency V

And finally, a thoughtful response from Rodney Hide:

Peter Brown must have agreed to the split vote procedure. It requires leave of the House to have a split vote. Any one member can veto the leave.

Standing order 144 (1) (b) requires that a party vote either noe or aye. There is no provision for a split vote in the rules.

If the rules were applied then a party would vote, say, aye, and then the individuals who opposed would have to stand and have their vote recorded (they could have someone vote on their behalf, but their name and vote would be required).

Occasionally, parliament agrees to a split vote. This is done by agreement of all the parties.

It’s frustrating not knowing how people vote. I had this on my shop trading bill. However, I agreed to a split vote cos I thought my congeniality might pay off. The result was I actually don’t know how people voted ... and nor to the public.

You raise a good point though. The solution is not in changing the rules - it’s just in MPs not agreeing unanimously to suspend them!

Hide has a point in that this isn't just about the rules - Parliament can suspend them with leave, and so a change of political culture is required. We must have MPs who take transparency and accountability seriously. At the same time, changing the standing orders would help bring about that change, and make it clear that openness rather than secrecy is the norm.

Also, having reviewed Hansard, I see that ACT split its vote four times during the debate over the early stages of the HART Bill: once for an amendment to clause 3(a), and then three times as each part was confirmed. On all occassions it was a 6:2 split. I've asked Rodney to publicise which way his MPs voted, and I'm awaiting his response.